The bag cells of the marine mollusc Aplysia are model neuroendocrine cells involved in the initiation of egg laying and its associated behaviors, but the natural stimulus triggering bag‐cell activity is not known. The atrial gland of A. california, an exocrine organ in the reproductive tract, contains two structurally related peptides (A and B) which can induce an afterdischarge in vitro, and these peptides can be used to probe the central nervous system for sites where extrinsic excitatory input onto the bag‐cell system might occur. These sites were identified in a series of lesion and ablation experiments. The entire central nervous system was removed from an animal and placed in a chamber with two compartments which could be independently perfused, allowing peptides (atrial gland extract or purified peptide B) to be selectively applied to specific regions of the nervous system while bag‐cell activity was monitored using extracellular suction electrodes. Afterdischarges were consistently and reliably induced when peptides were applied to the cerebral ganglion, the pleural ganglia, the cerebropleural connectives, or the rostral 10–15% of the pleurovisceral connectives, provided that an intact neuronal pathway connected the site of peptide application with the bag cells. In contrast, afterdischarges were never observed when peptides were selectively applied to the buccal or pedal ganglia and only rarely observed when applied to the abdominal ganglion and caudal pleurovisceral connectives. These results support the hypothesis that bag‐cell processes and/or neuron(s) presynaptically excitatory to the bag cells are located in the pleural and cerebral ganglia and narrow the region of the central nervous system where the critical initiator element(s) can be identified.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience